What Would You Do?

Last week, I wrote about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, (Why? When? What?). After the deaths of 58 individuals at an outdoor concert, my commentary was another plea for commonsense gun legislation.

In a separate e-mail, a regular reader to this site wrote to ask me a good question: What would you do?

Hey Jim:

…Please write 5 suggestions for new laws that you believe would stop this madness.  

The Obama administration approved the bump stock…    

I would correct your Chicago statistics for GUN death for which Politifact was incorrect Sanders comments were accurate: 2016 Gun murders, 720; wounded, 3659; Total, 4379. …

…The red-hot poker that is never discussed is WHY do Americans arm themselves? Hate to tell you, but people fear inner city violence spilling into their worlds…The Obama administration should get an award for escalating gun sales to levels never seen before. … 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO? Give us your solutions. What would work?

There’s a lot to unpack here, but before I get to possible solutions, let me respond to some of this reader’s statements:

* The Obama administration approved the bump stock.

A “bump stock” is a legal device that allows some semi-automatic guns to be fired rapidly, like a machine gun.

In responding to the question, “Did the Obama Administration approve bump stocks?” Politifact writes (Oct. 6), “…approved is probably the wrong word.

“Spelling out the legal definition of a firearm, ATF’s technology chief John Spencer determined it was not regulated by law.

“The stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when installed,” Spencer wrote. “Accordingly, we find that the ‘bump-stock’ is a firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm under Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act.”

Checking with two legal experts, Politifact says, “ ‘The statement implies Obama or (U.S. Attorney General Eric) Holder was somehow involved, and that it was an issue that wouldn’t have been approved in any other administration, and that’s technically incorrect,’ said Rick Vasquez, a former Firearms Technology Branch official who first signed off on the recommendation the ATF could not regulate the Slide Fire [or Bump stock].”

However, “Adam Winkler, a law professor at University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in guns, said it was appropriate to characterize the move as an approval of its sale under the Obama administration.

“ ‘Not because they liked it,” Winkler added, “but because the law did not permit them to prohibit it.”

Police found 23 weapons in the Las Vegas shooter’s room; 12 had bump stocks.

* I would correct your Chicago statistics for GUN death for which Politifact was incorrect. Sanders comments were accurate: 2016 Gun murders, 720; wounded, 3659; Total, 4379. … 

According to The Chicago Tribune, 789 homicides took place between January 1 and December 31, 2016.

However, the Politifact article I cited did not challenge Sanders’ number of gun deaths in Chicago. I did not properly explain that Politifact was rating Huckabee Sanders statement that Chicago has “the strictest gun laws in the country.”

My error for not making that clear.

At the end of their review, Politifact explains why they gave Sanders’ statement their lowest rating.

“In the thick of 2016 presidential campaign, we rated a nearly identical statement from then candidate Trump as Mostly False. Since then, similar claims have been uttered frequently by others and repeatedly debunked.

“Sanders therefore has had ample opportunity to learn her boss had been flat wrong when making the same claim on the campaign trail. Her revival of the claim, made in the midst of the debate raging over the Las Vegas massacre, is at best intellectually lazy and at worst a deliberate attempt to mislead.

“There’s no mitigating factor or missing context here. Sanders’ statement earns our lowest credibility rating, Pants on Fire.”

According to The Chicago Tribune, as of October 9, “2,961 people have been shot this year,” which is 404 fewer than 2016. That might not seem like much, but I’m sure it matters to the 404.

* …WHY do Americans arm themselves? Hate to tell you, but people fear inner city violence spilling into their worlds…

I could only find one story, from The Houston Chronicle (by way of The Alaska Dispatch News) from July 2016, that comes closest to examining the ideas presented in this readers’ statement.

Shocked by shootings in both Houston and Orlando, the story points out, Melissa McClaskey bought a handgun.

“ ‘I’m not going to have to beg for something to happen,’ McClaskey said recently. ‘I can actually prevent something from happening.’

“The FBI reports” The Chronicle writes, “that nearly 14 million requests for background checks to purchase a gun were made in the first half of this year [2016] – a 25 percent increase compared with the same period in 2015.

“ ‘No matter your politics, there is an overwhelming fear the world is becoming less safe,’ said Chuck Joyner, a retired FBI agent who is a Houston-based law enforcement consultant.”

I have not located any data to support the specific notion that “people fear inner city violence spilling into their worlds.”

But the reasons why Americans buy guns is something I will endeavor to research further.

* …The Obama administration should get an award for escalating gun sales to levels never seen before. …

True story: Not long after Barack Obama was elected, I was invited to a small party at a friend’s house where I met a former police officer who openly revealed that he had recently taken out a second mortgage to buy ammunition.

“Why do you need all that ammunition?” someone asked.

He leaned in and… this is exactly what he said: “Obama’s going to take our ammunition away.”

Over the next several years of Obama’s tenure, I saw story after story, interview after interview about how Obama was going to “take away” ammunition, rifles, handguns, you fill-in-the-blank.

Never happened. Never came close to happening.

And yet that meme, that fake fear generated millions more in gun and ammunition sales.

I wonder how much that former officer’s mortgage is today? More importantly, I wonder what happened to all that ammo?

Friday: What solutions do I have?

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